When leaving for the doctor's appointment remember to take all old glasses and prescriptions, both for medications and glasses. It is also good to take copies of documents that should be discussed during the visit. If there is a need for new reading glasses, it is important to measure the distances used at work and at home (more about regular reading glasses and strong reading glasses, magnifiers etc.).

Sometimes the doctor may ask a question that is difficult to understand. If you feel the question is not clear enough you can always ask the doctor to try to ask the same question in other words. All interpreters have some schooling in medical interpretation but not particularly much in ophthalmology so your interpreter may have difficulties in transcribing the question.

As the doctor fits the glasses (s)he may ask several times "Is this better?" It may sound as if (s)he did not believe what you said but that is not the case. Even if the question is the same, (s)he asks different things since (s)he makes small changes in the glass correction between the questions. The doctor tries to find out what is the most comfortable glass for your eye. Quite often the change in the glass correction is so small that the doctor is hesitant whether (s)he should prescribe new lenses or not. New lenses are prescribed only if you feel that the change is worth paying the price. Therefore you may be asked to compare the new lenses with your old lenses.

When the glasses are correct, the doctor measures several visual functions: visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, colour vision, visual field, and function of the muscles of the eye. After these measurements the intraocular pressure is measured. First the eye is anesthetized with drops. Then the pressure is measured with the small blue light. During the measurement one must not blink. Most often the eyegrounds are examined after dilatation of the pupils. The dilating drops are dropped into the eyes. After that one has to wait for half an hour or more until the pupils are dilated.

Since the effect of the dilating drops is long lasting, one may be badly dazzled when coming out. On a sunny day we must remember to take sun glasses with us when we go to the eye doctor.

After dilatation of the pupils the intraocular pressure may rise in some patients. Sometimes the pressure rises after several hours, and the eye starts to ache and become reddish; the vision may become blurred. If the eye doctor is no more in his/her office, the emergency clinic gives the initial treatment. The patient's doctor continues the treatment the day after.

We should remember that the visit to the eye doctor does not protect the patient from any diseases. There is no magic about the visit. If there are any new symptoms in the eyes or vision even the next day after the visit, it is important to contact the doctor and tell him about the new symptoms.

Ophthalmologists and Optometrists

Both ophthalmologists and optometrists take care of eyes and vision. Ophthalmologists examine your eyes to find the diagnosis of the disease that you might have. They perform surgery if needed and prescribe medicines. During the examination they measure the refraction of your eyes and often prescribe glasses for you.

The work of the optometrists varies in different countries. Their major work in most places is to prescibe glasses but in some states in the United States they take care of minor illnesses, too. In other countries there are no optometrists or only a few. If you have decreased vision, you should choose an optometrist who has knowledge of special lenses and other visual and environmental devices for the visually impaired.

When should you go to an ophthalmologist and when to an optometrist? Ask your doctor during the visit when you should be seen next time. Young healthy persons do not need to go to an ophthalmologist or an optometrist often, once in five years or not at all. If the person wears glasses, (s)he goes to the optometrist when the lenses are scratched or become uncomfortable. Elderly persons go more often if there are age related changes in their eyes that might require treatment in the future.

Many people believe that tiredness and burning sensation in their eyes are caused by old glasses. The symptoms may be caused by an illness and should be checked by the ophthalmologist. Not all symptoms are caused by weak glasses.